story by Diana Schwaeble
photos by Gail Job
“Location, location, location,” is the mantra in business. In the Mile Square City location means the skyline view, proximity to the PATH and a neighborhood feel.
After Superstorm Sandy hit in 2012, many local shops were hit hard by flooding issues, lost stock and revenue, and delays with insurance. Some long-standing shops were forced to close. But people rebuild after storms, and if the bustling businesses on First Street are any indication, if you rebuild it, they will come.
The French Connection
One doesn’t have to travel far for a taste of Paris. Choc O Pain (157 First St.) is an authentic French bakery and café right here in Hoboken. No, you won’t see throngs of celebrity watchers like the line outside Carlo’s Bakery. What you get instead are savvy locals who come to enjoy the fresh baked bread and croissants, and the delicious café au lait, specialty teas and coffee. One is meant to sip the coffee here and enjoy the ambiance. This is a perfect café for quiet reflection.
La Bouche Cafe, located on the corner of First and Garden streets, specializes in breakfast and lunch items—including omelets, salads, and specialty sandwiches. Everything is made to order, made with care and well worth the wait. It is a good place for a leisurely meal, but it seems that the word is out—thankfully spring is in the air, which means their outdoor seating will offer more room.
Newer to the scene is Brasserie de Paris, located in the Sky Club (700 First St.). This new restaurant is a welcome break from the bevy of Hoboken sports bars. It is all upscale ambiance with white tablecloths, candlelight, and classic French cooking. You’ll find items like Steak Frites, Steak Au Poivre (peppercorn crusted NY strip), and Coq Au Vin (chicken in a red wine sauce). A great place to bring a date or your mom, it has an extensive wine list, good staff and the air of “a place to be seen”—if you are into that kind of thing. Even if you’re not, the food and the atmosphere are different from the usual suspects found on Washington Street.
Many family-owned shops have garnered praise and found longevity by building up their business in places other than Hoboken’s main drag. Luxe Face and Body (158 First St.), is a specialty store featuring organic skin products, makeup and more. Friendly service, makeup applications for brides, and all-natural products are hallmarks of this shop. Randi Smith, executive associate at Luxe, says that there is a real community on First Street. “We all help each other,” she said. Randi is one of the friendly faces you’ll see, along with the owners, her brother David and her sister-in-law Jahnalyn. Randi says that Jahnalyn always wanted to open her own store and got her wish in 2012 when they bought it from the previous owner. Jahnalyn’s positivity is apparent in the motivational signs found throughout the store. One reads: “She believed she could, so she did.” New events are planned for the spring, including makeup application lessons. In addition, they offer St. Tropez tan applications, good for anyone looking for a tan without the risk of sun exposure.
Urban dwellers don’t have to go far for style. Mint Market (303 First St.) has a great selection of vintage women’s clothing and accessories. Everything is pleasantly arranged in the shop and the owner Valerie will gladly help you pick an outfit. Even though there is designer clothing on the racks, it’s affordable.
For salon services, Mad One Jack’s on the corner of Madison and First streets, is celebrating 15 years in Hoboken. They have local artwork on the walls, upbeat music and a distinctly party vibe. Owner Jack Gibson says some salons can be sterile or impersonal. He says they work hard to build relationships and to keep it friendly. “And the beer and wine,” he says with a laugh, “that is one of the things that people remark on the most.” They are offering specials all year.
Lorraine’s House of Styles (160 First St.) caters to men and women, and offers specials for people in the service industry. The salon was closed for 12 days after Sandy hit, but reopened. In business for 10 years, the salon is successful in part because they cater to all ethnicities, says manager Julia Miller. “We are one of the few salons that do that,” she said.
Sparkle Salon (301 First St.) has been in business for six years. They offer hair and nail care, waxing, threading and more. Owner Jessi Birk says that the men’s haircut and threading are two popular services. He says that the salon’s lower prices and good service are what have kept him in business.
Owner Stella Odino says her aim at recently opened Blow and Go (302 First St.) is to make the salon a little different. It is a “dry” bar, meaning the focus is on blow outs and up dos. They offer express services for busy women. In the future, Stella hopes to combine events with Mint Market—offering clothes and hair for a big night out.
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